Y’all know I love me a day of clothing-free laziness at the naked spa. (And if you didn’t know that, you can read more here. I highly suggest checking out this story of the time I was quite literally the only nude person at the naked spa. The tale is 100% true, and one of the most awful, memorable and strangely awesome experiences I’ve ever had.)
But back to the story at hand. When I found myself in Seattle last Friday with the day off from work, I knew exactly how I wanted to spend it. My sister Hayley had also taken the day off so we might spend some quality time together. And so, at the butt crack of dawn (by which I mean 10:00 am) we crawled into her 1986 Toyota and hopped on I-5 towards Lynwood. We had some naked relaxing to get to.
Hayley had never been to any spa–let alone a nude one–and seemed slightly tentative about the entire experience. I assured her she would feel right at home, and offered to pay for her day pass, just in case she didn’t end up liking it. I was more concerned about her reaction to the general spa experience as opposed to the idea of walking around naked with dozens of fleshy strangers. Hayley and I come from a family that is very comfortable with the idea of not wearing clothes.
Err…that may have come out wrong.
Let me clarify that we aren’t one of those new age families who have family meals in the buff and vacation at the nudist colony or anything. Still, I’m pretty sure one of my parents (I’ll let you guess which one) was a nude art model, and my sister and I visited our very first nude beach as elementary school students. (Perhaps this explains my desire to crash that naked resort in Mexico?) My parents have always had the very European mindset that “It’s just a body.” While they always encouraged modesty and adhering to social guidelines, we were also taught that the human body shouldn’t be something that is taboo or shameful.
Needless to say, Hayley took to the naked spa like a fish to water. (A naked fish to water.)
Olympus Spa actually requires you to remove all clothing before entering the spa facilities. Much like a traditional spa, they provide you with a few towels, and a robe to wear. But I’m not talking the plush robes and bath towels you see in staged stock photos and luxurious advertisements. These towels are thin, worn and basic. The robes are clinical mint green cotton with thin red stripes–they look oddly similar to the modesty covers one wears during an annual pap smear. In addition to the medical-inspired robes, patrons are required to wear a pale pink shower cap to prevent hair from clogging the various drains. The result is an army of relaxed, naked women, walking around barefoot in identical uniforms. Hair is hidden, makeup is absent, and there’s a serious abundance of tattoos.
“It kind of feels like we’re in prison!” Hayley remarked as we waited in line for a spot in the spa cafeteria.
“Yeah,” I responded, “A very relaxed, zen prison with lots of tea and throw pillows, but I totally see the similarities.”
“I think I would do well in prison. It feels like one giant, naked sisterhood.” Hayley added.
“Yeah…but real prison doesn’t have delicious Korean food or a 150 degree mud and jade room.” I reminded her.
“I meant I would do well in spa prison.” she elaborated.
I smiled and nodded. The fact was, Hayley had passed the naked spa prison test with flying colors. She was worry-free, comfortable, and wasn’t letting the sweaty pink shower cap cramp her style. Dare I say it, she had made the nude spa her b****.
After a lovely lunch of steamed dumpling soup and Korean BBQ shrimp, Hayley and I returned to the pool room for a bit of communal skinny dipping. We couldn’t help but observe the variety of women around us (in a studious way, not a creepy way) and comment on the incredible nature of the human body.
“It’s kind of amazing how our bodies are all identical, yet at the same time so completely different.” Hayley observed. “I love the vibe here,” she continued, “Everyone is comfortable and embraces who they are. I feel like everyone here really loves themself.”
She was right. As I gazed at the dozens of naked strangers sharing the pools with us, I couldn’t help but agree that each body was uniquely beautiful. Some women were tall, others were petite. Many sported athletic physiques while others were incredibly soft and curvy. Every shape and size was represented, and the variety of female physiques were all graceful and delicate in their own special way. The spa was a place to celebrate the individuality of one’s body–no one was ashamed or self-conscious. It was a community of pride and diversity.
“I feel like they should bring awkward teenage girls here on field trips.” Hayley remarked. “You know…so they could see that it’s really not that bad.”
I nodded in agreement. Instantly, my mind travelled back to the late nineties — my junior high and high school years. I remembered studying magazine photos of Jennifer Lopez and Britney Spears, sighing as I felt I would never measure up. While I was never self-conscious about my body as a young girl, I absolutely hated my nose. Keep in mind that my beak has been the size it is now since approximately 1991. While I’d argue that today, my nose is relatively proportionate to the rest of my features, as a twelve-year-old girl, my face hadn’t even come close to catching up to the size of my schnoz. I would spend hours looking at my profile in the mirror, desperately wishing I could afford a preteen rhinoplasty. My father, who I clearly inherited my nose from, would try his best to comfort me.
“Katrina,” he encouraged, “You have a beautiful nose. Once you’re older, you’re going to be more accepting of who you are and less worried about silly things like this. But until then, just remember that there are lots of things that are more important than your face, okay? Plus…Barbara Streisand has a large nose, and she’s one of the most beautiful women in the world!”
At the time, I didn’t believe him. (Partly because I had no idea who Barbara Streisand was.) Yet now that I’m older and wiser, I see that his words were full of truth. While I still struggle with my appearance and feeling comfortable in my body, I become more and more accepting of myself as the years pass. I can’t help but think that going to the naked spa as an awkward bundle of puberty may have been really good for me.
“You are so right, Hayley!” I exclaimed. “We should totally do that. Like, start a foundation where we bring young girls to the naked spa to make them feel comfortable in their own skin. We could call it ‘Awkward is Awesome’ or something! It’s genius!”
Hayley stifled a giggle before continuing. “Umm…I was kind of joking, Katrina. I don’t think you could actually bring young girls here on field trips. I mean, it would be cool if you could, but I’m pretty sure most schools would consider it sexual harassment or something.”
So much for being the naked ambassador for young, self-conscious tweens everywhere. Sigh.